I figured I’d try making ciabatta (ie, Italian slipper bread, as it looks kinda like a man’s slipper) because it’s gotten so trendy in the past few years and there was a recipe in my bread book. The ciabatta process is quite different from other breads. It requires a starter begun the night before and the dough is so wet, it is never actually kneaded. It remains wet and gooey until baking, in fact, but once out of the oven, this was one of the best breads I’ve ever eaten. My roommate and I would have finished both loaves within hours of baking if I hadn’t put my foot down to insist we save some for later.
The important points to keep in mind when making this bread are avoid adding extra flour to the dough and handle it with a very light touch after rising. Extra flour is very tempting because the dough is so hard to work with, but really, don’t do it except for when you need it to shape the loaves. After rising, do not punch down and be very gentle while shaping. Also, you really can’t use too much flour for the shaping process. If you have silicone baking mats (sadly, I do not), this would be a very good time to use them.